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The Bold and the Disputable: Fantasy predictions for 2014 season

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade

With the start of the regular season just hours away, it's time to for the Roto Arcade crew to waive the #TeamHuevos flag. Put your name on it. Here are our bold predictions for 2014: 

Peyton Manning, who was on 60.8 percent of Yahoo championship rosters, ruled the roost a season ago. Who is your top Fantasy MVP candidate this year? 

Brandon – DEMARYIUS THOMAS. I'm going with another Bronco. The stars seem to be aligning for DT, as he'll absorb a lot of extra targets (including even more lucrative red zone looks) left behind by the departed Eric Decker. And now we have the Wes Welker suspension news, costing the slot machine four games to open '14. Sure, Thomas will draw double teams, but with his size, speed and strength, not to mention a very WR-friendly NFL rulebook, I'm not worried at all about that.

Brad –  MATT FORTE. Kodiak, grizzly, polar, short-faced – the rusher will be all deadly ursine rolled into one. He has zero competition for touches, is arguably the league's most versatile back, is in the midst of his prime, has a top-five offensive line blocking for him and should register 20-25 touches per game in a prolific offense. Close to 2,000 combined yards and 15 touchdowns aren't out of the question. Investors, enjoy the career year. 

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Andy – First of all, Jamaal Charles ruled last year's fantasy roost, not Peyton. Jamaal gave us 215 yards and five touchdowns in Championship Week. Charles was, without question, the man. If you made it to the title matchup with JC, you did not lose.

This year, I'm gonna say DREW BREES delivers the best combination of elite regular season performance and ridiculous Week 15-16 production. He's been a top-two fantasy QB in five of the past six seasons. Brees also gets a home matchup with Atlanta in Week 16, and there's no way that goes bad.

Scott – I know it's oh-so-trendy to scoop up the premium receivers these days, but I see nothing wrong with taking an elite running back in the early going - if you're completely sold on him. That's how I feel about SHADY MCCOY, a versatile 26-year-old stud playing for a brilliant head coach. If I had the first pick, there would be zero hesitation. (And here's what no one seems to be saying about the 2014 receiver pool: it's surprisingly deep in the middle and late tiers. You'll always find affordable guys you like. That's not true at running back.)

Dalton – I’m going with EDDIE LACY, who won’t cost a top-three pick but will finish as the No. 1 fantasy back in 2014. In a league that continues to steer toward the passing game and more RB committees, a true workhorse is increasingly rare and more valuable than ever. Lacy is a member of a lot of fantasy title teams this season. 

Rookies, including Eddie Lacy and Keenan Allen, last year, have made significant impacts in recent memory. What greenhorn will take home the ROY hardware this fall? 

Brandon – BRANDIN COOKS. I'm torn between Cooks and San Fran running back Carlos Hyde, but Hyde's going to need a Frank Gore injury to make a major impact. Cooks looks poised to start blazing a trail from the opening bell. His ability to get from "zero-to-60" is elite, and he combines that with excellent route running. Drew Brees will make good use of that, especially with Darren Sproles gone.

Brad – BRANDIN COOKS. He possesses track speed (4.33 40-yard dash), ankle-breaking juke moves and ultra-versatility. There are mouths to feed in the Saints' spread, but he should be a focal point whether underneath, in the slot or on the edge. Approximately 1,000-1,100 combined yards with 7-9 TDs are in my fearless forecast. 

Andy – Well, if I think Brees is gonna surge in the biggest weeks (and I do), then I might as well take BRANDIN COOKS here. Based on pure talent, Sammy Watkins still looks like the best rookie receiver to my eye. But there's no arguing with Cooks' situation.

Scott – I'd love to nominate BISHOP SANKEY or CARLOS HYDE, but I can't say when the Titans will flip the switch, and I don't see Frank Gore going down without a fight. With that in mind, JEREMY HILL gets the call - a battering ram set to plow away in a steady Cincinnati offense. He has to share with Gio Bernard, of course, but Hill figures to be the man at the goal line.

Dalton – This rookie class features a bunch of intriguing receivers, and while this category winner is more often than not a quarterback, it’s unclear how soon guys like Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater will get the chance to start. I’m taking CARLOS HYDE, thinking this is the year Frank Gore finally breaks down and in that event, it’s not so crazy to envision Hyde being a weekly top-10 fantasy back.

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What undervalued commodity, a la Le'Veon Bell last year, will have the biggest return on investment this time around?

Brandon – FRED JACKSON. He was a top-12 fantasy RB last season and, tell me, what's changed? Last time I checked, he's still expected to handle goal-line work and be the lead running back in passing situations, not to mention splitting regular down duties with C.J. Spiller. For a run-heavy Buffalo offense, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Jackson placed inside the RB top 20 again, and he's going as the No. 36 back in average live drafts. That's a nice ROI.

Brad – CODY LATIMER. The star of Broncos training camp will make a sizable impact at some point this year, possibly out of the gate. Wes Welker's four-game suspension opens the door of opportunity. According to local reports, the rookie is expected to tag-team with Andre Caldwell on the outside opposite Demaryius Thomas. Hello single coverage. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he is Eric Decker revisited. Already slated for red-zone duty, he could prove to be much, much more in the opener vs.  Indianapolis and beyond. 

Andy – Really? Le'Veon was the best "undervalued" fantasy commodity we could come up with? Pffft. Wasn't he, like, the fourth or fifth best value among rookies? In any case, give me JAY CUTLER, for obvious reasons. He's dirt-cheap at the draft table, and, if we've nailed our ranks on his receivers, then Jay is a near-lock for 4200 yards and 30 scores.

Scott – Your leaguemates are probably giving you GREG JENNINGS for nothing. Take it, thank them out the door. Jennings clicks with Matt Cassel - if you prorate their work from 2013, Jennings gets 88 catches, 1018 yards and eight touchdowns. I'm certainly not promising numbers that rich, but this is a perfect fourth or fifth receiver.

Dalton – SHANE VEREEN currently has an 85.3 ADP in Yahoo leagues, which is ridiculous. He’s going to finish as a top-15 fantasy back in standard leagues and top-10 in PPR formats. He looks incredibly undervalued entering 2014. 

In search of tacky hands, which underrated (outside pick No. 100 on average) RB or WR will be the shining star in PPR leagues? 

Brandon – LANCE DUNBAR. I'm going super deep on this one, as Dunbar has been my last pick in a few drafts - he's often undrafted. But Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan directed a Detroit offense last season that completed the fourth-most passes to the RB position and made a fantasy star out of backup Joique Bell, who finished with 53 receptions. There's been some buzz about Dunbar filling a Bell-like role behind DeMarco Murray. And, it's not as if Murray is an ironman to begin with, so opportunities should be there for Dunbar. And with that abhorrent Dallas defense, the Cowboys will be throwing often.

Brad – ANDREW HAWKINS. There are several viable candidates for this category, but sans Josh Gordon and with defenses bracketing Jordan Cameron, it's reasonable to think the slippery waterbug is leaned on heavily by Brian Hoyer and eventually Johnny Manziel. Still available in over 95 percent of Yahoo leagues, it's conceivable the Baby Hawk hauls in 75-85 receptions this fall, though touchdowns could be few and far between. 

Andy – If we're PPR'ing, then I've gotta say DANNY WOODHEAD. He caught 76 balls last season and gained over 1000 scrimmage yards, and there's no reason to think he'll be used differently in 2014. He's a gift right now, falling outside the top-120 picks.

Scott – I have GREG JENNINGS and ANDREW HAWKINS on a bunch of teams; if I did my Wallet Piece a week later, they both would have made it.

Dalton – I personally came away owning him in zero leagues, and he’ll turn 30 this season, but PIERRE THOMAS fits the bill here. He’s coming off a season in which he racked up 77 receptions and now Darren Sproles and his 71 catches and 89 targets are out of town. Thomas looks like the favorite to lead the NFL in receptions among running backs. 

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The Saints could rain fantasy points from the heavens in Weeks 14-16. (USA TODAY)

The Saints could rain fantasy points from the heavens in Weeks 14-16. (USA TODAY)

Jamaal Charles almost single-handedly carried owners to the Shiva late last year, rolling up obscene numbers during the fantasy playoffs. What player will have a December to remember this season? 

Brandon – JOIQUE BELL. I'll go out on a limb here and say Bell will shine down the stretch for fantasy owners, much like he did in '13 when he was a top-6 fantasy RB from Weeks 13-16. He gets the Bears twice late in the season, and the Chicago defense allowed 369 more rushing yards to the RB position than any other team a year ago. He also mixes in Minnesota, a team that also had all kinds of issues on D last season. And, with Reggie Bush's penchant for collecting dings, Bell could be carrying another big load down the stretch.

Brad – Brees is an obvious answer, but, valliantly argued a few weeks back, I truly believe MATTHEW STAFFORD is on the verge of returning to greatness. His mechanics are more refined, the Lions added Golden Tate and Detroit's defensive backfield remains highly questionable. Blessed with a favorable end season schedule (MIN, TB and at CHI), he should buzzsaw any and all who cross his path. 

Andy – See above. SAINTS. BREES. COOKS. INGRAM. GRAHAM. New Orleans closes with Chicago and Atlanta, two defenses that appear to be extremely user-friendly.

Scott – I am not a look-to-December guy, that's my first point. Let's get some wins in September, acquire leverage as quickly as possible, navigate the new season. The league is constantly shuffling and reshuffling. Nonetheless, it's easy to dream up a scenario where SHADY MCCOY does a tap dance on the Cowboys and Redskins in Weeks 15-16. The Dallas defense in particular looks like a reliable sieve. 

Dalton – The Bears have three straight home games during Weeks 14-16, including facing a Cowboys defense in Week 14 that allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs last year that projects to possibly be even worse this season. Weeks 15 and 16 feature (home) matchups against the Saints and Lions, which will almost certainly have among the highest Vegas over/unders during that time.

Busts are an all too common occurrence in fantasy football. What high-priced player will fall on his sword in '14? 

Brandon – ARIAN FOSTER/ROB GRONKOWSKI - Take your pick. Both are too rich for my liking at the draft table, often going in the top two rounds. Considering the injury risks associated, no thank you. And in the case of Foster, it's hard to say if Houston's offense will be able to rebound under the guidance of new head coach Bill O'Brien and new starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Let's not forget that the Foster scored just twice in eight games last season.

Brad – C.J. SPILLER. Sure he was limited by ankle soreness for a significant part of 2013, but what on earth warranted owners to draft him as a RB2 in 12-team leagues? E.J. Manuel is several levels below atrocious, which means he'll be faced with numerous stacked boxes. Worse yet, Fred Jackson, despite his advanced age, will again dominate red-zone touches. Recall last year, F-Jax logged 45 touches inside the 20, Spiller just 21. He must hit a ton of home runs for investors to break even. 

Andy – LE'VEON BELL, simply because he isn't a special runner. Check the surface stats, check the deeper measurements. You won't find anything to suggest he's a star in the making. LeGarrette Blount will steal carries, including goal-to-go work. You have been warned.

Scott – DEMARCO MURRAY will be a fun player when he's on the field, but how long will that be? Look at the running style and injury history. Why is he going in the first 20 picks? I hate the handcuff game (a grossly overrated strategy), but if you draft Murray, you have to go that route. Everyone has upside in the first two rounds, but why invite a dicey floor?

Dalton – MATTHEW STAFFORD was the No. 7 fantasy quarterback last season while attempting 634(!) passes and Calvin Johnson staying healthy. No thanks. I don’t have him as a top-10 fantasy QB entering this year, and he’s getting treated as the first one to be drafted after the “big three.” 

Hitting green on the roulette wheel happens occasionally in fantasy. What largely undrafted player (Under 10-percent) will achieve shocker special status? 

Brandon – LANCE DUNBAR/ROY HELU - I mentioned why I like Dunbar (above), and for similar reasons, I think Helu could be sneaky good this season - Alfred Morris is a non-factor in the passing game, and new 'Skins head coach Jay Gruden could view Helu in a dialed-down Gio Bernard type role.

Brad –  TRAVIS KELCE has shocker special written all over him. He'll split snaps with Anthony Fasano initially, but Andy Reid will be hard-pressed to keep his field-stretching abilities off the field. Sans Dwayne Bowe Week 1, the Chiefs could unleash him against Tennessee. If there's a Julius Thomas in the year's TE class, it's Kelce. 

Andy – Give me JERMAINE KEARSE, a receiver who might very well lead Seattle in touchdown receptions this season. He's only 3 percent owned, but it wouldn't shock me if he ranked as a top-40 WR.

Scott – I love taking upside shots with mobile quarterbacks, especially in the 1.5 and 2-QB world. Maybe Ken Whisenhunt can get things working with JAKE LOCKER; he was in on the Philip Rivers fix last year. The Titans have some interesting targets. I also see GENO SMITH as notably underrated (which leads me to a lot of Eric Decker shares); he's taking strides in Year 2, and a handy runner when the situation allows.

Dalton – ALFRED BLUE and BRIAN QUICK are my two favorite (really) deep sleepers this year. Both are being almost totally ignored but have the path and upside to be difference makers.

Similar to the Texans last year, what NFL franchise will unexpectedly fall down the elevator shaft and enter the Marcus Mariota sweepstakes? 

Brandon – KANSAS CITY. In addition to playing division rivals (and playoff teams from last season) Denver and San Diego twice, the Chiefs also play Seattle, New England and San Francisco. With an anemic passing game, huge turnover on the offensive line and questions about the run defense, this is a team where I could see its record flip-flopping from 11-5 last season to 5-11 this year.

Brad – CAROLINA. The strength of the Panthers resides with their defense, but I'm concerned the transparent offensive line, Cam Newton's suspect health, average ground game and overall mediocre weaponry could send this team south in a hurry. 

Andy – DALLAS has been stuck at 8-8 for three seasons, but that team has obvious disaster potential. The defense can't possibly be good, and if anything happens to Tony Romo ... well, wow. It will get ugly in a hurry, friends.

Scott – I have the 49ERS missing the playoffs, which might be why D3 keeps hurling tomatoes at me (if Tim Lincecum hurled the tomatoes, I'd smash them into McCovey Cove). I also think Jim Caldwell was a horrible hire for the Lions; I'm picking them for last in the NFC North.

Dalton – I have KANSAS CITY falling from 11-5 to 7-9 and CAROLINA going from first to worst in the NFC South. Pianow has the 49ers missing the playoffs? I see a big bet in our future. 

Looking for water in the desert. Predict teams/score in this year's Super Bowl in Glendale, Ari.

Brandon – DENVER 34, NEW ORLEANS 28. Sure, as a Seattle fan, you could accuse me of looking to avoid a jinx here, and you might be right. But, if Seattle becomes yet another team not to repeat a Super Bowl title, these are the two teams I could see stepping up in its absence.

Brad – NEW ORLEANS 27 San Diego 20. And, yes, while in Vegas a couple weeks back, I placed a nice chunk of change on the Saints at 12:1 to take the whole enchilada. 

Andy – NEW ORLEANS 34, Denver 31. Book it. Place your bets.

Scott – SEATTLE 31, NEW ENGLAND 30. I don't want to hear the "it's hard to repeat" card - it's hard to win, period. But the Seahawks still have most of their core in place, while things keep going wrong for their division rivals (it's been a perfect Seattle summer). And Russell Wilson remains on the escalator.

Dalton – NEW ENGLAND over GREEN BAY 27-24.

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out 'The Noise' along with colleagues Andy Behrens and Brandon Funston for another season of 'Fantasy Football Live' every Tuesday-Thursday at 6 PM ET on NBC Sports Network. Additionally, tune into 'FFL' radio on Yahoo! Sports Radio Sundays at 9 AM ET. 

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